Tag Archives: Josh Sanderson

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Sept. 2, 2016

Here are some stories that made education news this week as you started your new school year:

 


committee-sealThe U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, which oversees Social Security legislation at the federal level, has shared new blog information on the unfairness of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and why it needs to be overhauled by Congress. Committee chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) are now inviting educators, firefighters, and other public employees affected by the WEP to share stories about how they’ve been affected by this unfair provision in law. We at ATPE encourage Texas educators to share their stories with congressional leaders by emailing them to WEP.feedback@mail.house.gov and also check out the committee’s useful new infographics and WEP data here.

 


The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability (TCONGAA) has finalized its recommendations and considerations for further study to the governor and state legislature. The commission’s final recommendations include the following:

  1. Implement an Individualized, Integrated System of Multiple Assessments Using Computerized-Adaptive Testing and Instruction.
  2. Allow the Commissioner of Education to Approve Locally Developed Writing Assessments.
  3. Support the Continued Streamlining of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).
  4. Limit State Testing to the Readiness Standards.
  5. Add College-Readiness Assessments to the Domain IV (Postsecondary Readiness) Indicators and Fund, with State Resources, a Broader Administration of College-Readiness Assessments.
  6. Align the State Accountability System with ESSA Requirements.
  7. Eliminate Domain IV (Postsecondary Readiness) from State Accountability Calculations for Elementary Schools.
  8. Place Greater Emphasis on Growth in Domains I–III in the State Accountability System.
  9. Retain the Individual Graduation Committee (IGC) Option for Graduation as Allowed by TEC, §28.0258.

View the commission’s full report here. Stay tuned next week on our Teach the Vote blog as ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter will provide complete analysis and our association’s reaction to each of these nine recommendations.

 


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Josh Sanderson

It’s a bittersweet day for ATPE as we bid farewell to one of our veteran team members. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson is leaving his post in our Governmental Relations department today to become Associate Deputy Executive Director for the Equity Center, a Texas non-profit organization that advocates for school finance equity and adequate public education funding. We at ATPE are grateful to Josh for his decade of outstanding service to our organization, and we wish him all the best in his new endeavors with one of our most respected education allies.

 


Have a safe and relaxing Labor Day Weekend!

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Aug. 26, 2016

Here’s a look at some stories that made news this week in the world of Texas education:


ThinkstockPhotos-185034697_gavelcashTexas’s much-maligned standardized tests were once again the focus of media attention this week. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced this week that it is imposing harsh financial penalties against the vendor that administers the state’s STAAR tests after a number of problems occurred during test administrations this spring. Also this week, a judge assigned to a lawsuit filed by parents objecting to the STAAR test refused to grant the state’s motion to have that case dismissed. Read more about the latest STAAR-related developments in this week’s blog post from ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter. Exter also discussed the testing company fines in an interview with KVUE News, which you can view here.

 


Texas lawmakers involved in the biennial budget-writing process are starting to look more closely at education funding as the 85th legislative session approaches. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson and ATPE Political Involvement Coordinator Edwin Ortiz attended a meeting this week of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Article III, which oversees the education portion of the state budget. Wednesday’s hearing was a discussion of an interim charge dealing with public education programs that are funded outside the Foundation School Program (FSP). Learn more about the hearing in our blog post from yesterday.

 


ATPE_Logo_Stacked_Tag_ColorATPE members and employees have been showcased in a number of media features this week with the start of a new school year. Round Rock ATPE member Stephanie Stoebe talked to KEYE TV in Austin about how she engages students using popular “Pokemon Go” characters. Stoebe also joined ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey on Time Warner Cable Austin to discuss how the use of technology in the classroom can also increase opportunities for bullying. They urged educators and parents to talk to children about the risks of cyberbullying, which some lawmakers hope to address in the upcoming legislative session. Also on TWC news, a number of ATPE members contributed to a recent story about how teachers can talk to their students about difficult currrent events, such as problems of racism and violent attacks. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter also talked to KSAT about new education laws that are taking effect this school year. Be sure to follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter and ATPE on Facebook for coverage of these and other stories about how ATPE members are making a difference in the lives of students.

 


 

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: July 29, 2016

Here is this week’s recap of federal and state education developments:

 


This week, Governor Greg Abbott appointed four new members to serve on the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), replacing outgoing members whose terms expired last year but remained on the board until the appointments were made. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann reports that Rohanna Brooks-Sykes, a counselor at Klein High School; Arturo J. “Art” Cavazos, superintendent for the Harlingen CISD; Sandie Mullins Moger, a former Houston Community College Trustee who will serve as a public member; and Laurie J. Turner, an American history teacher at Gregory-Portland Junior High School, will all begin their terms set to expire in 2021 next week when SBEC convenes for its August meeting.

BradAllard

Brad Allard

Among the outgoing board members are Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Bonnie Cain, the current chair of the board. The board elects its own chair and is expected to conduct that election at a future board meeting after the new appointees are sworn in as SBEC members. Jill Druesedow, the board’s vice-chair and a teacher at Haskell High School, will oversee meetings until a new chair is elected. Also on the list of outgoing members is ATPE member and Burleson teacher Brad Allard. ATPE thanks Brad and all of the outgoing members for their service to the profession and wishes Brad the best in his retirement!

SBEC will hold its next meeting a week from today. Stay tuned for an update on that meeting and other SBEC developments.


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) notified stakeholders earlier this week of new guidance released by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youths program, which was reauthorized and amended under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The guidance is a part of a series of documents that ED intends to release in an effort to assist states and districts as they seek to understand and implement the new federal law.

Among the new requirements, states and districts will be required to identify the graduation rates of homeless student populations, provide professional development, ensure access to support services for preschool-aged homeless children, maintain privacy of student records, and expand school stability services such as transportation. The Department also released a fact sheet covering expanded information on how teachers, principals, counselors, and other staff can support homeless youth.

View ED’s fact sheet and guidance on this and other ESSA provisions for more information.


ThinkstockPhotos-111939554The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability held its final meeting on Wednesday, July 27, to vote on recommendations to the 85th legislature for changes to our state’s accountability system and student testing. Despite early indications that the commission might recommend scrapping the state’s unpopular STAAR tests, commission members ultimately opted for a different route. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter attended and reported on this week’s final meeting. For more on the commission’s vote, check out the coverage from our friends at The Texas Tribune, republished here.


Elections 2016 Card with Bokeh BackgroundThe country’s two primary political parties have released and approved their respective party platforms, documents that assert the party’s principle policy goals and guide party members’ policymaking at all levels of government. On education, the party platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties differ greatly. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann has provided a comparison of the two party platforms here.


The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees met today, and ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson provided the following update. The board met in part to continue discussions on the budget request that TRS will submit to the legislature when it convenes for the 2017 biennial session in January. TRS projects public education aggregate compensation to increase by 3.5% over the 2018-19 biennium, and as such is requesting that the required additional funding be appropriated to pay the state’s 6.8% contribution to the pension trust fund. This is a common occurrence as long as schools are hiring staff to accommodate the increasing student population, but there have been years in the recent past where payroll was projected to remain flat, largely because of state budget cuts. As long as there is no political manipulation of the assumption values TRS uses to calculate the status of the fund, the trust fund remains healthy. However, there have already been proposals made by political appointees that would potentially unfairly harm TRS. ATPE is working to ensure that your benefits are accurately calculated and that the state meets its end of the bargain in contributing to your retirement and health care benefits. As it relates to health care, legislative interim committee reports are expected to be released soon, and after submitting testimony to the committee appointed to work on active and retiree health insurance issues, we are hopeful that elected officials will include our request to increase state investment in both plans to equal that of other private and public plans.

Next week, the Senate Education Committee holds an interim hearing on August 3 at which the topic will be “a comprehensive performance review of all public schools in Texas, examining ways to improve efficiency, productivity, and student academic outcomes.” The discussions will include performance-based funding and “mandates,” along with an examination of the effectiveness of the state’s only two county-based school systems in the counties of Harris and Dallas. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates next week on this and other upcoming interim hearings.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: July 15, 2016

An ultimately anti-climactic week in Washington and other Texas education news is recapped here:


13501817_10154159653265435_2291324175792778665_nOn Wednesday, the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means was scheduled to mark up and vote on H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act (ETPSA). Instead, in a disappointing turn of events, the bill was pulled from consideration and postponed as a result of opposition from several national employee associations. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson followed the developments closely this week and reported on them here, here, and here.

If H.R. 711 does not pass, public education employees will continue to be subjected to the punitive Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) that can reduce personal Social Security benefits by over $400 per month. If H.R. 711 passes, a fairer formula, one that considers a worker’s entire career and earnings history, will be used to calculate benefits. Further, retirees would receive a benefit increase and the average future retiree would have benefits increased by an average of $900 per year.

ATPE remains dedicated to ensuring Texas educators receive fair and quality benefits in retirement, and we will continue to work with Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) on increasing benefits for current and future retirees by passing H.R. 711. Stay tuned for future updates.


The United States Capitol building

The United States Capitol building

In other federal education news this week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held its fifth of six expected Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation oversight hearings, and the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations held a mark up of the appropriations bill that funds the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

This week’s Senate HELP hearing on ESSA implementation was focused on the Department’s accountability rule proposal. As we reported when it was released, the proposal requires states to have accountability systems in place by the 2017-18 school year, with the goal for states and districts to begin identifying schools in need of support in the following school year. This proposed timeline is unsettling to most because it identifies struggling schools based on data derived from early implementation efforts, rather than data collected once the new state accountability systems are fully implemented. Some also caution that it doesn’t allow enough time for states to truly innovate in their new systems. All of the witnesses invited to share input at this week’s hearing and most senators agreed that delaying the timeline by a year would be beneficial.

Another point of contention in the proposal was the department’s decision to require an overall summative score, rather than allowing states to provide dashboards of information on schools and districts, which provide a more comprehensive look at school accountability. ED is accepting comments on the rule proposal through August 1, and we will continue to provide updates on the proposal as they develop.

In the other chamber of Congress, the House Appropriations Committee marked up its version of the 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill, which includes education funding. The bill funds the Department of Education at $67 billion, a $1.3 billion decrease compared to the previous year’s appropriation. Federal special education funding, however, increased by $500 million compared to the previous level, and the bill includes $1 billion for the student support and academic enrichment grants, authorized under ESSA.

Due to the inclusion of party-specific initiatives and disagreements on funding levels, the appropriations bill mostly broke down on partisan lines. Still, the committee reported the bill favorably to the House floor where it now awaits debate and a vote from the full House. The Senate is simultaneously working on its own version of the funding legislation.


Little girl sitting on stack of books.In a story published this week by the Texas Tribune, Kiah Collier reports that a number of Texas school districts (more than 20) have turned down the funding they were to receive under the high quality prekindergarten grant program.

We reported last week that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced it had parceled out a total of $116 million to 578 Texas school systems that qualified as grant recipients. We noted at that time that “considering the money is to be dispersed among a large number of school systems, the per pupil dollar amount will be telling in terms of how far the state needs to go to invest in quality and meaningful early education.” According to the Tribune‘s story, per pupil spending under the program totals $367 per year, a fraction of the $1,500 per student originally expected, and districts are turning down the grant because it will not cover the cost of implementing required quality control measures.

Read the full story for more on this latest prekindergarten development.


16_Web_SummitSpotlightThe ATPE governmental relations team is ready for the ATPE Summit and looks forward to seeing participating ATPE members next week! We hope you will stop by the Advocacy Booth in the ATPE Lounge on Wednesday night to say hello and pick up a variety of advocacy resources. We will be there to answer questions and visit with members from 4 to 7 pm on July 20.

Immediately following, you can find us at the 70s-themed dance party! We will be promoting the ATPE-PAC and selling a fun, tie-dyed t-shirt. Speaking of PAC, if you are an ATPE member and you’re coming to the ATPE Summit, be sure to check out our new online auction. Bidding is open now and your voluntary donations will go toward supporting pro-public education candidates through the ATPE-PAC.

The lobby team will also present advocacy updates during the professional development and leadership training sessions on Thursday. We will offer two general advocacy update sessions that will highlight the latest developments in state and federal education policy. Our team will also moderate in a separate session a conversation with ATPE members Jimmy Lee and Casey Hubbard regarding their recent experiences serving as education advocates in their local communities.

Get ready for an educational, productive, and fun-filled week! We hope to see you there!


 

Social Security Update: Real reform

It is rare, unfortunately, how often we have the opportunity to have real discussions with elected officials about increasing public education employees’ benefits. The state hasn’t given educators a pay raise since 2006, and retiree benefits, while stable, have not increased aside from the issuance of a one-time 13th check.

Today we have the very unique opportunity to move one step closer to undoing the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), the provision in federal Social Security (SS) law that reduces the benefits of thousands of Texas public education employees every year. As we have reported, Congressman Kevin Brady has filed H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, that proposes to eliminate the existing WEP and replace it with a new, fairer formula that accurately reflects a retiree’s history of employment and contributions to SS. The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee will be hearing and voting on H.R. 711 this afternoon.

If passed, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that anyone who is retired and affected by the current WEP as of December 31, 2017, along with anyone who turns 62 by December 31, 2017, and has uncovered service but has yet to begin receiving SS benefits will receive an average annual rebate of $486. Some retirees will receive a lower amount. However, those affected most by the WEP will receive a rebate as high as $720. The even better news is that this rebate begins in 2018 and will continue every year for the retiree’s lifetime.

For those future retirees not turning 62 by December 31, 2017, the average yearly SS benefit increase will be approximately $900.

While this is not a complete and full repeal of the WEP, it is most certainly a step forward. What ATPE members have asked for all along is to be treated fairly and to receive the SS benefits they worked for and contributed towards; H.R. 711 achieves this goal.

We will always work toward increasing the livelihood of public education employees. Any benefit increase is well-deserved, and it would be irresponsible to not take the opportunity to increase benefits and create a more equitable system.

Stay tuned to TeachtheVote.org for updates.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 17, 2016

These are stories making news this week in the Texas education world:


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) board is meeting this week and tackling some difficult decisions about funding active and retired educators’ healthcare needs. Inadequate funding from the legislature over a period of many years has created a looming problem that must be solved. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson is attending the meetings this week and has provided a summary of the changes that are in store for TRS members. Click here to check out Josh’s latest blog post on TRS developments.


ThinkstockPhotos-481431733As we have been reporting on Teach the Vote recently, there were some very close races in the May 24 primary election runoffs that resulted in recounts. In House District 54, a recount was sought in the race to succeed Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen), the popular chairman of the House Public Education Committee who did not seek re-election. Killeen mayor Scott Cosper (R) defeated Austin Ruiz (R) on runoff election night by 43 votes. Yesterday, we learned that the recount request by Ruiz has confirmed Mayor Cosper to be the winner of the Republican nomination. Cosper, who was endorsed by the outgoing Aycock and by Texas Parent PAC in the primary, will next face Democrat Sandra Blankenship in the general election in November.

We reported earlier this month on another recount in which Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) lost to challenger Briscoe Cain (R) in House District 128. With recounts completed, attention turns now to the general election. Keep up with Teach the Vote in the coming months for information about contested races for the Legislature and State Board of Education in November.

 


Monty Exter

Monty Exter

Earlier this week, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability held yet another work session to try to reach consensus on recommendations for the 85th Legislature. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter provided an update on this week’s meeting and has been reporting on some of the issues that commission members are grappling to address. Testing concerns have been of particular interest to many commission members, education stakeholders, and the media, especially in light of several glitches that plagued this year’s administration of the STAAR tests to students. Meanwhile, State Board of Education (SBOE) members are also encouraging the public to share their feedback on testing and accountability. Click here to read more about the SBOE public survey that is open through June 30.

 


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann contributed a blog update this week on the meetings held by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) last week. The board held both a work session to explore the role of educator preparation programs (EPPs) and trends in educator certification, along with its regular board meeting on Friday, June 10. Read Kate’s latest blog post to learn more about the actions taken by the board and some significant agenda items that were postponed.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-100251374Next week, ATPE staff and state officers will be in the nation’s capital advocating for federal education priorities. They will be meeting with members of Texas’s congressional delegation to urge action on Social Security legislation, discussing policy issues with U.S. Department of Education officials, and attending a hearing on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter for updates from our team in Washington, DC.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 10, 2016

These are stories making news this week in the Texas education world:


SBECThe State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) has been meeting this week with possible changes to educator preparation and certification rules on the agenda. On Thursday, the board held a work session to consider the role of educator preparation programs (EPPs), the educator preparation experience through both traditional and alternative EPPs, national trends, and other matters relating to educator preparation and certification.

SBEC is holding its regular board meeting today, and the agenda includes anticipated rule changes for the criteria to enter an EPP, as well as the ways that EPPs are held accountable. Another agenda item calls for a new format for the Core Subjects EC-6 certification exam. TEA staff has recommended removing one of the five domains currently covered by the test to focus on the core subjects of English Language Arts and Reading, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. SBEC will also discuss possible changes to the Educators’ Code of Ethics and disciplinary rules, which will encompass tweaks to existing rules against inappropriate teacher-student relationships.

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann is attending both of the SBEC meetings this week and will provide a full report for Teach the Vote.

Related content: SBEC’s review of educator disciplinary rules comes at a time when there is great media interest in stories about educators engaging in inappropriate relationships with students. Recent interim legislative hearings have also drawn attention to the issue. This week, ATPE Media Relations Specialist Stephanie Jacksis spoke to both KVUE News in Austin and Fox29 in San Antonio about the problem and ways teachers can separate their personal and professional use of social media.

 


Josh Sanderson

We’ve been writing about the Texas Supreme Court’s recent decision on school finance and how some lawmakers are looking at ways to tweak the funding system in light of the court’s finding that the system barely meets constitutional standards. Last week, ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson was a special guest on Time Warner Cable’s Capital Tonight program talking about the challenges inherent in the current school funding system. This week, Josh also spoke to KVUE News about a related topic: comparing how schools spend the money they receive. A new website established by former state Comptroller Susan Combs seeks to provide Texans with tools to do just that, but much of the school performance data on the website is focused on student test scores. Watch video of Josh’s interview with KVUE’s Mark Wiggins here.

 


Elections 2016 Card with Bokeh BackgroundWe reported last week on some of the recounts that have been sought following the May 24 primary runoff elections. First, Rep. Wayne Smith‘s (R-Baytown) recount request was not fruitful, as the recount confirmed his loss to challenger Briscoe Cain (R) by only about two dozen votes. This week, we await updates in another recount underway in House District 54 for the seat being vacated by current House Public Education Chairman Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen). In that race, Killeen mayor Scott Cosper (R) defeated Austin Ruiz (R) on runoff election night by 43 votes. We’ll bring you the results of that recount as soon as they are announced. Follow @TeachtheVote on Twitter for the latest developments.

 


Do you work in a school district that is pursuing a designation as a District of Innovation (DOI)? Keep in mind that ATPE has a resource page to help educators and parents learn about the new DOI law, which allows certain acceptably-rated districts to exempt themselves from various state laws. Many districts in Texas are already taking steps to create and adopt innovation plans. The exemptions most commonly claimed so far include the school start date law – with districts looking to start the school year earlier in August – along with requirements for the assignment of certified teachers, class-size limits in elementary grades, and teacher evaluation requirements. Visit ATPE’s newly updated DOI resource page to learn more and read examples of some districts that are using the DOI statute to avail themselves of exemptions from these and other laws.

 


Monday, June 13, is shaping up to be a busy day. First, the House Pensions Committee is holding an interim meeting in Houston. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson will be there and will provide updates next week on the retirement matters discussed. Also on Monday, the Texas Education Agency will hold a public hearing on proposed rule changes for the Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS). Last but not least, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability has scheduled a final work session to develop its recommendations to the 85th Legislature. The commission’s gathering is an add-on meeting not originally planned, but as ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter reported recently on our blog, commission members have struggled to reach consensus on a number of issues related to testing and accountability measures. Watch for updates next week on the commission’s deliberations.


16_Web_SummitSpotlightDon’t forget to register for the ATPE Summit, taking place July 20-22 in Austin, where you can earn valuable professional development credits and learn more about hot issues affecting public education. Learn more at ATPESummit.org

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 3, 2016

Happy Friday! Here are some of this week’s blog highlights from Teach the Vote:

 


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

On our blog this week, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann writes about ongoing efforts to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Washington. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has proposed new federal rules to implement certain accountability aspects of the law, which would require states to respond by implementing their corresponding accountability systems in the 2017-18 school year. ATPE has also written to ED Secretary John King offering input on testing and educator quality issues affected by ESSA. Read Kate’s blog post to learn more.

A delegation of ATPE state officers and staff members will be traveling to D.C. this month for meetings with the Texas congressional delegation and ED officials. Talks will focus not only on ESSA implementation but also on the continuing efforts to address Social Security reform and the unfair Windfall Elimination Provision through Congressman Kevin Brady’s (R-TX) ETPSA bill.

 


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

In the wake of a disappointing ruling from the Texas Supreme Court that our state’s school finance system is constitutional, education stakeholders are wondering if there will be any impetus for lawmakers to take steps to improve the flawed system next session. This week, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) called for two House committees to add new interim charges to their agenda this year in an effort to keep school finance at the forefront of legislative planning for 2017. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson wrote about the new interim charges on our blog this week, noting that insufficient school funding leads to “immense pressure on local taxpayers, classroom teachers, and students.”

Under the directive this week from Speaker Straus, the House Appropriations and Public Education Committees are jointly being asked to study the following:

  • Current law requires the elimination on September 1, 2017, of Additional State Aid for Tax Relief (ASATR), which was intended to offset the cost of tax-rate compressions enacted in 2006. Review how this loss of funding would impact school districts.
  • Study the use of local property taxes to fund public education and its effects on educational quality and on Texas taxpayers. Specifically, recommend ways to reverse the increasing reliance on recapture payments to fund public education statewide.

On the Texas Senate side, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) responded to the new House interim charges by issuing a statement emphasizing his focus on education reform priorities, which include private school vouchers. Advocating a reform package deal, Patrick wrote, “Everyone knows education policy reform and school finance reform must go hand in hand.”

Read more about the school finance interim studies in Josh’s blog post from yesterday.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-470725623_voteThere is news out today regarding last week’s primary runoff elections, including a few contests that were close enough to result in calls for recounts.

As we reported following the May 24 runoff election night, Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) lost his election to challenger Briscoe Cain (R) by a mere 23 votes. That prompted a request for a recount, which Harris County election officials completed today, confirming Cain as the winner of the runoff for House District 128. Meanwhile, another recount request is still pending in House District 54, where Killeen mayor Scott Cosper (R) defeated Austin Ruiz (R) in the Republican primary runoff by a margin of only 43 votes. We’ll bring you the results of that recount when it’s completed.

Related: The Texas Association of Community Schools (TACS) shared a voting update today with fellow members of the Texas Educators Vote coalition, including ATPE. In the update, TACS’s Laura Yeager writes about the low turnout in the recent runoff elections as well as how much some groups spent to try to defeat pro-public education candidates this year. Laura writes, “A recent article in the Quorum Report stated that education reformers spent $3.2 million to defeat pro-public education candidates, including those that support Speaker Joe Straus. While educators generally don’t have millions of dollars to throw into elections, they do have upwards of 700,000 votes, which can and should carry as much weight as pure dollars. We are grateful for the culture of voting that has been developing across the state, and we will need to continue to cultivate it for the general election and in years to come. Only when all educators use their hard earned right and privilege of voting, will we be able to fight the vast amount of money being poured into elections by education reformers that lines the pockets of business and slowly kills public education as it is imagined in the Texas Constitution.” We agree wholeheartedly with Laura’s assessment, and we hope that Texas educators’ participation in the 2016 elections will be enough to counter the privatization and other dangerous reform proposals that are certain to arise in the 2017 legislative session.


The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is gearing up to make significant changes to educator preparation and certification rules over the new few months. First, on Thursday, June 9, the board will convene for a work session to consider the role of educator preparation programs (EPPs), the educator preparation experience through both traditional and alternative EPPs, national trends, and other matters relating to educator preparation and certification. No public testimony will be taken on Thursday, but SBEC will hold its regular board meeting on Friday, June 10. View the agenda here, which includes anticipated rule changes for the criteria to enter an EPP and the accountability system for EPPs. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on SBEC rulemaking actions from ATPE’s lobby team.

On Monday, June 13, the House Pensions Committee is holding an interim meeting in Houston, TX; the Texas Education Agency is conducting a public hearing on proposed changes to rules for the Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS); and the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability is holding yet another work session to develop its recommendations to the 85th Legislature. We’ll have updates on these and other events affecting public education on our blog.

16_Web_SummitSpotlightHave you registered for the ATPE Summit, taking place at the Austin Convention Center, July 20-22? This year’s summit will feature professional development and leadership training sessions, including advocacy updates from the ATPE lobby team; an opportunity for ATPE members to shape our organization’s legislative program and bylaws; plus plenty of other lively, informative, and entertaining activities. Learn more at ATPESummit.org

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: May 27, 2016

The week was dominated by big election news. Read the latest from ATPE and Teach the Vote:

 


American voting pins

The May 24 primary runoff election included some high-profile races of special interest to the education community.

The Republican primary runoff for SBOE District 9, where incumbent Thomas Ratliff (R) did not seek re-election, became one of the most anticipated contests in Texas but garnered attention from the media here and around the country. Outspoken and controversial candidate Mary Lou Bruner, who had been the front-runner in the March 1 primary and almost escaped a runoff, was defeated Tuesday night by Dr. Keven Ellis. Between the two elections, Bruner had angered many educators within and even outside the northeast Texas district with questionable claims about school conditions there and an apparent refusal to fact-check or correct her misstatements. At least one Tea Party group that endorsed Bruner early on withdrew its support for her, while educators rallied around Ellis, who had been endorsed by the pro-public education group Texas Parent PAC, to help him secure the win. Other closely watched races this week included Republican primary runoffs in Texas Senate Districts 1 and 24, where voters chose Tea Party-backed candidates Bryan Hughes and Dawn Buckingham, respectively, over their Texas Parent PAC-endorsed opponents David Simpson and Susan King

With extremely low voter turnout, several Texas House runoffs produced slim margins of victory, and at least two of those races are headed for a recount. Check out our blog for more from The Texas Tribune on anticipated recounts in House Districts 128 and 54. Candidates have until June 6 to decide if they will seek a recount. HD 128, a seat currently held by Rep. Wayne Smith (R), was one of the runoffs Tuesday night in which incumbent legislators were ousted by more conservative challengers; Rep. Doug Miller (R) in HD 73, another Texas Parent PAC-endorsed candidate, is the other incumbent who lost his runoff on Tuesday in a winner-take-all race where there are no candidates from other parties seeking the seat this November.

For a complete list of Tuesday’s outcomes in state legislative and SBOE runoffs, read our runoff election recap blog post from Wednesday.

 


Monty Exter

Monty Exter

On Wednesday, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability held another meeting in Austin. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter attended the commission’s day-long work session. The inability to reach consensus yet on a number of questions relating to how Texas tests students is causing the commission to add another meeting in June to its schedule. Read Monty’s blog post from this morning to learn more about the ongoing deliberations of the commission.

 


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

With the dust settling on the Texas Supreme Court’s school finance ruling, many are wondering what, if anything, lawmakers will do to change the funding system that justices described as “Byzantine” and “undeniably imperfect.”  This week, ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson appeared on Time Warner Cable’s Capitol Tonight program to talk about school finance. Josh explained ways in which past budget cuts, that were never fully restored, have affected classrooms and noted that per-pupil funding has not kept up with rising standards for students, schools, and teachers over the years. Check out video of the episode here.

 


Girl (3-5 years) riding tricycle with USA flag along path, low sectionEnjoy the Memorial Day weekend!

Celebrate the end of the school year!

Stay safe if you’re hitting the road!

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: May 20, 2016

Important runoffs are happening in some parts of the state. We’ve got your election news and more in this week’s wrap-up:


Early vote pic from EAToday, May 20, is the last day to vote early in primary runoffs for Republican and Democratic races in which no candidate earned more than 50 percent of the votes on March 1. Polls close at 7 p.m. tonight. Several legislative and State Board of Education (SBOE) seats are up for grabs on Tuesday’s runoff election day.

Read our early voting blog post for a list of districts that have runoffs, tips on where to find your polling places, and more. Don’t forget to check out the runoff candidates’ profiles, including voting records and survey responses, using our 2016 Races search page.


Hotly contested runoffs capture attention of voters, political action committees, and media

Whether or not you live in SBOE District 9, chances are you’ve heard about the high-profile runoff contest taking place in that northeast corner of Texas. In the open seat to replace Thomas Ratliff (R), who is not seeking re-election, candidates Mary Lou Bruner and Dr. Keven Ellis are vying for the Republican nomination. Bruner attracted early attention from local and national media with her Facebook claims (as reported by The Texas Tribune and others) that President Obama had been a gay prostitute and drug addict. Those early Facebook posts have since been shielded from public view, but candidate Bruner has continued to shock voters with questionable assertions about public schools, including accusations about the number of substitutes holding teaching positions in a local school district and the percentage of students in special education.  Earlier this week we republished a story from The Texas Tribune about a meeting with area school superintendents who challenged Bruner on her dubious claims.

Following that meeting, an influential Tea Party group announced this week that it was retracting its earlier endorsement of Bruner. Grassroots America – We the People said in a statement, “We are all disappointed to have to take the strong measure of withdrawing our endorsement for a candidate. Since the institution of this organization in 2009, we have never had to take such an action; however, this organization requires accountability and personal responsibility from the candidates it endorses…. Unfortunately, once we viewed the raw, unedited video of Mrs. Bruner speaking to Region 7 Superintendents on May 4th and read her written statement, we had no choice but to start the process of reconsidering the endorsement.”

The fact that another Texas Tea Party group recently chose not only to reject Bruner but even to endorse Dr. Keven Ellis in this race underscores the serious concerns that many have expressed about Bruner’s ability to serve effectively on the SBOE. The publishers of the Texas Tea Party Voter Guide stated that Bruner “has gone too far and is making us all look like idiots. If she gets elected she will do more damage to the conservative movement than anything she might accomplish, so we are supporting Keven Ellis.” Interestingly, Ellis also earned the endorsement of Texas Parent PAC.

Bruner earned 48.4 percent of the vote in the March 1 primary compared to Ellis’s 31.05 percent. However, both candidates were relatively unknown at that time, and media interest in the race has put it on the radar of more voters and education stakeholders throughout the state. With Ellis appearing to capture increasing support from such diverse interests, this race will certainly be one to watch on Tuesday.

Also in the spotlight are runoffs for Senate Districts 1 and 24. SD 1 is an open seat, where incumbent Sen. Kevin Eltife (R) is not seeking re-election. Republican candidates and current state representatives David Simpson and Bryan Hughes are locked in a tight race with dueling endorsements, matching pleas for smaller government, and efforts to appeal to education voters. Simpson received the coveted endorsement of the pro-public education group Texas Parent PAC and is airing radio ads in which he touts his support for school funding and opposition to cuts to the public education budget. Hughes, meanwhile, is the only non-incumbent senator to be formally endorsed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), after Patrick originally stated that he would not get involved in the primary races. Education reform and pro-privatization groups such as the Texas Home School Coalition and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (Empower Texans) have backed Hughes, but he’s also using campaign ads to try to appeal to retired educators by featuring photos of his meetings with local retired teachers. This is a winner-take-all race on Tuesday since no Democrats or third-party candidates have filed to run for the open seat; Tuesday’s winner will take office in January 2017.

SD 24 is another open seat race worth watching on Tuesday night. State representative Susan King (R) and Dr. Dawn Buckingham (R) are vying for this Senate seat currently held by Sen. Troy Fraser (R), who announced plans to retire. This race featured a crowded six-person field in the Republican primary on March 1. King earned 27.25 percent of the vote, while Buckingham brought in 24.76 percent. Expect another close match-up in Tuesday’s runoff for the Republican nomination. The winner will face Democrat Jennie Lou Leeder in November.

A few of Tuesday’s House runoffs are also winner-take-all races, in which the primary winner will face no opposition in November. In HD 5, Republicans Cole Hefner and Jay Misenheimer are in a runoff to determine who will succeed Rep. Bryan Hughes (R). HD 73 features a runoff between Rep. Doug Miller (R) and challenger Kyle Biedermann (R). In HD 120, the winner of the primary runoff between Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D) and Mario Salas (D) will decide who takes this House seat previously held by Ruth Jones McClendon (D) in January 2017; this is despite the fact that another, separate election is taking place this year to determine who fills McClendon’s vacant seat for the remainder of this year. HD 139 is another open seat for which both regular and special elections are taking place in 2016. After a vacancy was left for the House seat of Sylvester Turner (D), now mayor of Houston, Jarvis Johnson (D) won a special election earlier this month to serve out the remainder of Turner’s term, but Johnson faces a runoff on Tuesday against Kimberly Willis (D) for the upcoming full term to begin in January 2017.

Check out profiles of these and other runoff candidates using our 2016 Races search page.


Related: Supreme Court’s school finance ruling highlights importance of 2016 elections

Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

A week has passed since the Texas Supreme Court ruled that our state’s school finance system meets the constitutional minimum standards. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson writes about why your vote is the only thing left to compel legislators to take any action to improve the way we fund our schools. Josh also explains why discussions of two legislative committees this week about the possibility of new spending restrictions are another cause for concern. Check out his latest blog post here.


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

FEDERAL UPDATE

It was a busy week for education in Washington, D.C., as discussions continued over how to implement the nation’s new federal education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann has written an update on ESSA, including the latest debates over the law’s “supplement not supplant” language, as well as new legislation relating to school nutrition. View Kate’s blog post here.

 


RULEMAKING UPDATE

In his first few months on the job, Commissioner of Education Mike Morath has put forth administrative rules pertaining to a number of controversial topics. First, the commissioner finalized rules begun by his predecessor to implement the state’s new recommended teacher appraisal system known as T-TESS. ATPE has filed a legal challenge against the T-TESS rules, arguing that they violate existing state laws, the Texas Constitution, and public policy expectations. That petition has been referred to the State Office of Administrative Hearings so that an Administrative Law Judge can decide the merits of ATPE’s case. In the meantime, be sure to check out our T-TESS resource page on ATPE.org to learn more about the new evaluation rules and how they might affect you.

Related: The Hawaii State Board of Education voted this week to remove student test scores from its teacher evaluation system. Hawaii was one of several states that had incorporated student growth measures into a new teacher evaluation system in recent years, partly in order to satisfy criteria for an NCLB waiver. Texas’s T-TESS rules were similarly design to match NCLB waiver conditions that are no longer applicable, which ATPE cited in our requests for Commissioner Morath to revise T-TESS and reconsider the student growth measure language in the rules.

Commissioner Morath has also proposed rules for Districts of Innovation (DOI), implementing 2015 legislation that allows acceptably-rated school districts to claim exemptions from numerous education laws. ATPE has submitted comments on the proposed rules, urging the commissioner to address serious concerns about implications for educators’ and school districts’ immunity protections in school districts that claim entitlement to blanket waivers of all exemptible laws in the Texas Education Code. We’ve got updated information on some of the districts that are pursuing DOI status on our comprehensive DOI resource page on ATPE.org.

Also in the works at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) are rules to implement a 2015 law that requires video surveillance equipment in certain classrooms serving students in special education programs. Yesterday, TEA officials held a public hearing on proposed commissioner’s rules for implementing Senate Bill 507. ATPE previously submitted written comments on the proposed rules, which have not yet been finalized. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on these and other rules as developments occur.

Related: The Texas Tribune hosted an interview with Commissioner Morath on Tuesday. The event was sponsored in part by ATPE. View video from the event here.


Next week, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability meets Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Austin. View the commission’s agenda here. We’ll have more on the meeting next week, along with complete results of Tuesday’s big runoff election day, here on Teach the Vote.

ThinkstockPhotos-485333274_VoteIf you live in a runoff district, don’t forget to go vote early today or vote on Tuesday!